Monday, January 9, 2012

Fides Cerea

Here is today's distich by John Owen, with an English translation by Thomas Harvey, 10.6. In this poem Owen is playing with a popular etymology for the word sincerus, as if it were from sine-cera, "without wax" - and, in this case, without the sealing wax and other formalities of formal bargains. While the etymology is not supported by historical linguistics, it makes for an elegant little poem!

Fides Cerea
Credebant nummos sine chirographo, sine cera
Sinceri veteres; nunc sine utroque nihil.

Without or Wax or Seal men once lent money;
But no without them both none will lend any.

Here is the vocabulary:

fides - faith, trust
cereus - waxen, made of wax
credo - truth, believe, entrust
nummus - coin
sine - without
chirographum - handwriting, written bond
cera - wax, sealing wax on a document
sincerus - candid, truthful
vetus - old
nunc - now
sine - without
uterque - both, each of two
nihil - nothing

(source: a signet ring that, some argue,
may have belonged to William Shakespeare)

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